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Archive for February, 2011

Sick Day

I have been sick all weekend and haven’t finished my last Fantastic February post for you all.  I am still sick.  So, I am going to have to take a sick day and post it for you another time.

My Apologies.

~Suzanne

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by Lolita Marie-Claude

One of my favorite steampunk image here for you  this week-end.

What kind of story could you write to this? My story maybe because I have to say that the setting of my steampunk urban fantasy could easily look like this, except for the dude on the left.

Who and what is he? Is he human? It doesn’t look like it to me. Is this a total fantasy world or some sort of dystopian earth?

You tell me 🙂

Love to see everyone’s imagination working full speed!

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Did you have a Steampunk release in 2010?  The Prism awards, which is given out by the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Chapter of the Romance Writer’s of America is *desperately* short of Steampunk/Time Travel entries and will cancel the category if they don’t get enough entries.  If your story has romance elements please consider entering.  Details and eligibility requirements here. 

We have some winners to announce…

We have five copies of David Burton’s’ Scourge to give away.  And the winners are…

Paula S

Nikki

FredTownWard

Alden Ash

Beth

You are our five lucky winners.  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.

Today we have the amazing Lolita Deb aka Deborah Schneider who’s going to tell us about her new project.

A love for American History drew Deborah to the field of education and teaching American History right after college. She resides in a small town near the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest, where she fulfills her dream of waking up every day to look at a mountain. She’s the winner of the Molly Award for Most Unsinkable Heroine for her book, Beneath A Silver Moon. She loves writing about strong, smart women who aren’t afraid to challenge the men they love. She’s employed by one of the busiest library systems in the US, is the 2009 Romance Writers of America Librarian of the Year, and believes in the power of books to change lives.

No Ordinary Love

By Deborah Schneider

For the past three years a friend of mine has invited me to be part of short story romance anthology. The compilation isn’t for sale; all the authors offer it at no cost to their friends, families and fans. For me the best part of working on the anthology has been learning to write shorter, more focused stories. This year our theme was “love songs” because we planned to release the stories for Valentine’s Day.

I write long, and do edit a lot out of my stories. Trying to get everything in a story under 3000 words is really a challenge for me, but it’s also very rewarding to finish and be pleased with the result.

This year, I knew I wanted to write something with a Steampunk flavor. I’m working on a novel in that sub-genre, had completed a novella and now wanted to experiment with a short story. Suzanne’s announcement of selling a YA Steampunk Fairytale had intrigued me. I love fairytales and imagined how much fun it would be to play with that kind of story with Steampunk flare.

I’ve always loved the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, so I started with the idea of a toy shop, a soldier and a love affair. I started to do some research, and learned about automatons. Translating to “self moving machines”, these mechanical wonders were especially popular during the Victorian age.

There’s a famous automaton in the Musee d’Art et d’Historie of Neuchatel, Switzerland designed in the 18th century by Pierre Jacquet-Droz.   “The Writer” is a small figure that can be programmed to write 40 characters, dips the pen into an inkwell before actually writing and his eyes that even follow the flow of words. This mechanical wonder astonished people around the world.

I was intrigued by this machine, and created a story around a shop filled with wonderful automatons, exquisite toys and amazing clocks.  When a soldier stops by the shop on Christmas Eve to purchase toys for his niece and nephew, he meets a childhood friend and rekindles an old relationship.

But the girl he grew up with is very different now and she’s afraid that if he finds out the truth, he’ll reject her just like many of the villagers do.  

Because we had to choose a title that is a love song, my choice was the song by Sade, No Ordinary Love.

You can download the book, “Love Songs Say So Much” for free at my website: http://www.debschneider.com

On my books page, you’ll find the other two anthologies, also free to download.

I hope you enjoy this collection.

~Deb Schneider

http://www.debschneider.com

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We take a break from our normal Fantastic February programming to bring you the following diversion:

Books have been sighted!

The first copies of the fantastical vampire tale (aka – my latest release) The Truth About Vampires from Harlequin Nocturne have been spotted at a local Walmarts in Port Orchard and Bremerton, Washington, and reports are coming in (on Facebook) that they’ve also been seen in Mililani, Hawaii.

The book, which features a roguish cover of a vampire doing things better left unmentionable in the presence of those prone to vapors and other such lady-like sensibilities, recounts the story of a bluestocking (female, gasp!) reporter Kristin Reed intent on uncovering the purportrator of the vicious Bloodless Murders happening in Seattle only to uncover instead a clan of vampires living beneath the streets of the city in the Seattle Underground. While the security leader, Dmitri Dionotte, attempts to guide Kristin’s exploration of the vampires, he is also working to protect her from a rogue band of vampire reviers intent on harming the populace of the fair Emerald city and Kristin Reed in particular for her audacity to reveal their presence to humans.

a glimpse of the Seattle Underground

Now you may ask, what in blue blazes does a modern vampire tale have to do with steampunk? My answer: The Seattle Underground.

Created in the aftermath of the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, the Seattle Underground happened when the city decided to rebuild more than 25 blocks of prime business district waterfront, with the goal of elevating the streets to avoid the capricious flooding brought on by the tide. The city streets were rebuilt an entire story above the old. For many years during construction there were ladders that went up and between these sections of the city while the supporting walls and roads were built overhead.

Today that little bit of Victorian culture from Seattle still stands and can be viewed at hourly intervals by proceeding through the delightful auspices of Doc Maynard’s Public House, a restored 1889 era saloon, as part of Bill Spiedel’s Underground Tour.

As an author, I thought the tour was not only fantastic, but it inspired me to think what a perfect place for my vampires to make a city of their own beneath Seattle where no one would suspect.

And now, dear reader, I ask you, where else may you have spotted this book?

Until next time, truly yours,

Lolita Theresa

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Fantasy February continues.  Today we have the amazing Ann Aguirre who’s dystopian YA debut Enclave releases April 12th, 2011.

Ann Aguirre is a national bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, two cats, and one very lazy dog. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies and Dr. Who. She writes urban fantasy (the Corine Solomon series), romantic science fiction (the Jax series), apocalyptic paranormal romance (the Ellen Connor books with Carrie Lofty), paranormal romantic suspense (as Ava Gray), and post-apocalyptic dystopian young adult fiction.

How the Apocalypse is Like Cupcakes

by Ann Aguirre

To make cupcakes, you need flour, sugar, leavening, eggs, milk, and flavoring, which can come in many varieties like vanilla, chocolate or ground almonds. The apocalypse is the same way. Generally, it’s not one single event that causes everything to fall apart. War, famine, disease, global warming, manmade pestilence, bio-plagues, chemical weapons, pollution, radiation — as you can see the possibilities are rather endless. And in the fictional sense, at least, dystopian fiction can be every bit as delicious as the dessert referenced above.

I’m always profoundly uncomfortable discussing my work in more than abstract terms. The book should stand or fall on its own merits, and therefore, my awkward enthusiasm for a work I’ve created serves no purpose. However, for a review that says everything about ENCLAVE, this is the one to read. Ms. Holland is far more eloquent on the subject of ENCLAVE than I could ever be, but this is my favorite quote:

“…the action and violence are balanced with a deep sensitivity. Deuce wants to be a cold huntress who only focuses on her objective, but her heart gets in the way. She wants to save lives, even the lives of those that the leaders have deemed useless, and she has some serious moral questions about how much mercy she can afford to show before she jeopardizes her own survival or the welfare of her enclave. The fighting scenes are all the more exhilarating because they have an emotional core to back them up: Deuce may have fun fighting, but she doesn’t fight for fun. She’s always defending someone–the children, or her partner, or herself.” —All Consuming Books

Recently, in an interview, I was asked why I chose a post-apocalyptic world for my YA debut. The answer is actually two-fold. First, I wasn’t sure I had the voice to write a beautiful contemporary in the vein of Jennifer Echols, but I wanted, quite desperately, to write a YA. So I decided if I couldn’t do a compelling young protagonist in this world, I’d invent one. Which brings me back to why dystopian?

I’m a child of the eighties, and we saw filmstrips about what would happen if the bomb dropped. Sometimes we had nuclear drills in addition to fire and tornado. When I think about twenty small children huddled under their desks in case the Russians let one fly, well, it’s rather absurd, isn’t it? But that sort of fear shaped my psyche, so that’s definitely a contributing factor. The other reason? Well, I’ll just quote the interview I did with Karen from For What It’s Worth “I think it’s because they’re uplifting. No, seriously. You take a world in utter disarray. Things are incredibly bleak. Then a hero arises, someone who has the desire and drive to succeed, no matter what. And this person changes his or her world in some fashion. How can that message not be incredibly valuable to young adults? I think it lends hope that there can always be brightness, no matter how dark it seems.”

For me, that’s the absolute crux of the matter. People need to believe they can make a difference–that one person standing strong can turn the tide. It’s easier to demonstrate that in the Razorland world, but that example of internal fortitude will serve readers (of all ages) well. I wanted to take a run at telling that kind of story, and I’ll close with Publishers Weekly’s thoughts on the matter:  “In her first young adult novel, Aguirre (the Sirantha Jax series) has created a gritty and highly competent heroine, an equally deadly sidekick/love interest, and a fascinating if unpleasant civilization. This series is likely to hold considerable appeal for fans of The Hunger Games.”

I was thrilled they called Deuce “gritty and highly competent.” Did I succeed entirely with ENCLAVE? Only readers can be the judge of that, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think. What are your favorite dystopian novels and why do you love them?

~Ann

Ann Aguirre | www.annaguirre.com

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Steampunk Writing Prompt

Now who is this mysterious and beautiful girl?
Who is she waiting for?

Is she a western hussy in a saloon waiting for her next client? A fallen miss fleeing her country and waiting for the airship to leave? Or a lady alchemist taking a rest in her private drawing room after a difficult experiment?

You tell me!

Thanks for all the great ideas last week!

Hoping for more!

M-C 🙂

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Today we welcome Jon Heartless, author of Romanticism Lost. 

The “Greying Down” of Culture

by Jon Heartless

Is anyone else worried about the ‘greying down’ of culture which seems to be increasing all around us? Society does it by scorning anything outside the conventional. Our employers do it by demanding that we wear their uniform, use their methodology, and even use their word forms when dealing with customers. Governments do it by promoting bland manifestos, even blander politicians, and only supporting media-friendly, populist policies which can all be measured and quantified. The UK Government is especially target-obsessed, and exhibits the belief that everything can be fed into a spreadsheet of tick boxes which will yield statistical data on every part of our lives. “Real life doesn’t comply with forms AH139 to VT9735 inclusive? Then reality is wrong. We have the paperwork to prove it…”

In short, we are being homogenized in a variety of ways, usually by having bits chopped off so we fit a pre-determined shape, and I’m rather peeved about it. It’s at times like this that I truly understand why a diabolical mastermind wants to create a death ray and zap everyone. It’s not an insane desire to take over the world; it’s just table-chewing frustration at the way we’re treated by those who have power over us. Give me a death ray and I would quite happily point it at the Houses of Parliament. Or corporate employers. Or the tabloid press, with its insular attitudes and hatred of anything unlike.

This got me thinking one day on what the Sherlock Holmes stories would be like if Conan Doyle were writing today. We’re used to the idea of Holmes and Watson receiving a telegram pleading for help, dashing off in a hansom cab to Waterloo, the luxurious railway carriage, the hiring of a dog cart at the rural station, the investigation, the deduction, and the unmasking of the villain. Can you imagine what that would be like in the modern world? Holmes would be prosecuted for breaching health and safety laws after lighting his pipe, while the criminal, after being unmasked, would be able to sue the consulting detective for slander, emotional belittlement, loss of confidence etc etc. And this pre-supposes Holmes could get anywhere near the crime scene at all with our modern rail companies, who seem to view the transportation of passengers as being a distraction from their true calling of taking our money in ever increasing amounts in return for an ever decreasing service.

From all this was born my novella, Romanticism Lost, and only after I’d written it did I realise that I had something a bit ‘steampunkish’. (Please note I hesitate to label it as a definite steampunk work, though it does feature a nineteenth century setting and a Calculating Man made from glass, brass, and clockwork). And this, finally, leads to the point of today’s blog: when we create something that doesn’t fit into a preconceived set of values or opinions, do we create something more imaginative, something more enjoyable, something ‘better’?

After all, if we sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a western,’ we immediately limit ourselves to a certain set of rules; cowboys, the sheriff, high noon etc.  Even in a wider context we still do this – consider the British Empire. Immediately, our thoughts are channelled into a few well-established streams; it was good/bad, it did this, it caused that etc. So when we sit down to write steampunk, do we similarly limit ourselves to predetermined rules and thus a predetermined outcome?

I am in no way a steampunk expert, but I do know that it is now a genre, and genres often feed off themselves and in doing so they can lose originality. Witness the ‘steampunkiness’ of Doctor Who over the years, in which the past was represented by the Doctor with his Victorian/Edwardian clothing and old fashioned heroism, while the TARDIS was the new world of technology. Together they were incongruous, yet they worked. Now compare that to the modern day version, where deliberate quirkiness is forced into the concept, and you can see quite a shift in our creativity; we are retro-eccentric for the sake of it, rather than because it just happens to fit the artistic demands of the story.

Does this sort of thing limit us? And if so, is this true to the spirit of steampunk, which theoretically has no limits other than being set in an alternative, tech-heavy past? Are we now creating steampunk rather than creating something that can be labelled (often retrospectively) as steampunk? If we are starting with the intention that there will be warlords, airships, unconventional heroines, modern technology enclosed in Victorian aesthetic design etc, does this mean that we are sealing ourselves into a self-replicating loop?

I’m guilty of doing exactly this, incidentally, in that I’m writing a story inspired by Charles Stross’ blog complaining that the genre isn’t realistic enough about the horrors of the Victorian era. From this infamous rant, an idea lodged in my head about creating a steampunk story that does show the appalling social conditions of the Victorian age, and hence was born my work in progress, Steampunk Imperialism. However, I fear I am working to Mr. Stross’ agenda as to what the genre should be. I also fear that in trying to create a recognisable steampunk story I am heading through the door marked ‘Conventional’ rather than the door marked ‘Innovative’.

Given the individual artistic craft that goes into creating a steampunk-style computer, dress, or ray gun, it would be ironic indeed if we are succumbing to a rigid mindset on what is, and isn’t, acceptable. Is steampunk’s success going to be its downfall? Would it really make a difference if you could buy steampunk off the shelf in a supermarket? Is Steampunk really in danger of becoming SteamcorporateTM?

Of course, even is this is true, and I do emphasise I am only speculating here, you may well think it doesn’t matter, and you could be right. Some great things can still be achieved within the well-defined parameters of a genre, and in any case, it depends on what you want to do; are you writing a Dickensian tale of misery designed to show the inequality of Victorian life, or are you creating an adventure romp, or something which can inspire young readers, or something else again? There’s no law on this, just personal likes and dislikes.

Is Romanticism Lost a better work for not being bogged down in the minutiae of being a particular type of fiction? Or will Steampunk Imperialism be superior for having a definite genre and philosophy? (It certainly helps that I am interested in the Victorian age, although I am out of my comfort zone in setting the story at the start of the Victorian era rather than the fin-de-siècle). In the end, I suppose it all depends on the individual. And if that isn’t steampunk, I don’t know what is.

Speculation over, and I still haven’t reached a conclusion, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and, more importantly, I also hope you continue to enjoy steampunk for many years to come, no matter what guise is presents itself under.

Romanticism Lost can be purchased direct from Double Dragon Publishing, or from third party retailers such as Kindle. My YA werewolf tale The Wolves of Androcolus will be available from BloodMoonPublishing.com shortly, under my pen name Barnabas Corbin. Steampunk Imperialism will hopefully appear one day, assuming it doesn’t depress me to the extent that I give up on it.

–Jon Heartless

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